If You Know, You Know: These Emerging Asian-Designed Brands Are Redefining Cool

It’s a big world out there, and it’s about time the industry acknowledges that, too. As an editor, I continuously keep my eyes and ears open for brands and names across the globe that inspire new modes of style and spark creativity. Today, I’m delving into the Asian-designed brands that are redefining what it means to be cool.  The impact of Asian culture on fashion is innumerable and immense, and as we continue to comb through the trends that pervade the industry today, it’s important to give credit where it’s due. From Shanghai and Milan to Tokyo and New York City, these emerging brands have delighted us with their interpretations of ’90s nostalgia and clean-cut, modern minimalism. Of course, this is just a small sampling of the brilliant designers out there but, nonetheless, represents the diverse scope of Asia’s cultural influence. Keep reading to see the full list of brands and to shop our favorite pieces from each. 

Leave your Y2K slogan tees at home. We’ve now entered the era of logo earrings. Emblazoned with phrases like “Help me” and “For your health,” Jiwinaia is true to the Gen Z brand of sartorial satire. You won’t see such eccentric pieces on anyone else, and that’s precisely the point. Created by Central Saint Martins graduate Marisa Jiwi Seok, the Milan-based brand has already received the seal of approval from celebs such as Dua Lipa, Rosalia, and K-pop artist CL.

Based in New York City and founded by friends Jin Kay, Dylan Cao, and Huy Luong, Commission was inspired by the designers’ nostalgic style from their youths. Retro floral prints and tailored dresses are flagship pieces from the label and are a callback to the outfits their mothers wore in the ’80s and ’90s.  Although Commission is a celebration of the past, there’s always a modern touch that feels right on the nose for today’s fashion climate.

Perverze is more than just a fashion brand. It’s a movement. Launched in 2016, the Japanese label is run and directed by an enigmatic design collective that roots its rebellious designs in the traditions of Japanese streetwear. After building a cult following on its home turf, Perverze is now available in a number of limited retailers internationally including, Assembly New York and Ssense.

Emerging out of Shanghai, Shushu/Tong is the independent fashion label reimagining femininity. Created and designed by duo Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang, the brand’s stunning embellishments and joyful, girly patterns are anything but ordinary. Since I saw images from its latest collection, the minidresses, in particular, have lived in my mind rent-free. 

We at Who What Wear are big fans of BonBonWhims’s bubbly, Y2K aesthetic, and we’re not the only ones. Its chunky Juice Bomb rings have graced the fingers of everyone from Ariana Grande to Kylie Jenner, and now, the brand is a staple among fashion It girls across social media. Clare Ngai started creating her famous rings during quarantine last year, and within months, they spiraled into full-fledged It items. Other than rings, you can find kidcore pieces that will bring you back to the glory days of the early aughts, like smiley face charm bracelets and colorful, whimsical earrings.

Ryota Iwai is the creative mind behind the gender-neutral label Auralee. Its no-fuss, easygoing silhouettes remind me of the heydays of Gap’s casual-cool era in the ’90s, with the exception that everything is produced from premium fabrics in Japan. Although minimalism is at the center of Auralee’s aesthetic, the brand is not entirely comprised of plain white tees and blue jeans. The oversize shapes and detailed constructions set its pieces apart, tiptoeing the delicate line between trendy and timeless.

For all the minimalists out there, it’s time to get acquainted with CFCL. After serving as the men’s design director for Issey Miyake, Yusuke Takahashi left the company to start CFCL in 2020. An acronym for Clothing for Contemporary Life, the emerging label feels like a millennial blend of Issey Miyake and Uniqlo, offering simple basics in an assortment of neutral tones. Where the year-old brand really shines through is in its sumptuous ribbed knits and abstract fluted shapes—which I personally wouldn’t mind owning in every color. 

Up next, These 8 Korean Fashion Brands Have Their Fingers on What’s Next

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